23 in One Pickup Truck

As the “Undocu-Bus” passed through Denver, Colorado, last Friday on its way to the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, a reasonable person might ask what all this political theater is really about.  Can this group of avowed undocumented workers really change the hearts and minds of the Democrats at their national convention? And the public as they travel long miles to North Carolina by way of many states which have passed recent anti-immigration laws?

These are legitimate questions but for the elephant in the room no one will acknowledge.  That invisible monster is the federal legislative record on immigration policy since the House and the Senate voted to pass the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986.

Both political parties admit our immigration policy is badly broken and must be fixed, but their legislative inaction is surpassed only by their rhetoric.  Here we are more than twenty-five years after IRCA and still all the immigration issues have not disappeared regardless of federal legislative sloth and states laws such as Arizona’s which are attempts to fix what the Supreme Court again reaffirmed recently is a national problem.

In spite of Obama’s June executive order to keep hundreds of thousands of children from being deported, children who were brought here by their parents who were illegal immigrants, the fundamental problems which our federal legislators have year after year failed to address simply will not go away.

One example of this busted immigration system?  While the nation’s attention was turned to the recent tragic shootings in Aurora, Colorado, and Oak Park, Wisconsin, a pickup truck crashed near the town of Berclair in south Texas.  Loaded with 23 passengers, 15 died at the scene while 8 others were hospitalized.  All occupants are illegal immigrants from Mexico or Honduras.  An old front tire is blamed for the truck crash killing 15 immigrants, but the real culprit is not a truck part but a failed national immigration policy.

Even this avoidable traffic accident is dwarfed by the 62 illegal immigrants abandoned by the side of the highway near Victoria, Texas, in May, 2003.  Luckily those stuffed into the back of this eighteen-wheeler were eventually able to contact authorities.  But not before 18 individuals died miserable deaths in the back of the trailer as drivers unknowingly motored by on Highway 77.

Since statistics were first kept in the mid-1990s, an average of 450 people every year have died while illegally crossing into the United States along the southern border.  Most likely this is an underestimate.

The tip of the iceberg, the deaths two weeks ago in south Texas, as is true of those who suffocated to death in the back of a tractor trailer, are as unnecessary as they are tragic.  The problems with our immigration system are many even as our federal legislators continue to do little in relation to the true scope and magnitude of the issues.  The improbable “Undocu-Bus” is, then, less political theater than a desperate attempt to pressure our politicians to replace IRCA with comprehensive, thoughtful legislation addressing all the immigration issues which burden our country.

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